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Monday, 18 June, 2001, 16:34 GMT 17:34 UK
Davis, outside challenger
David Davis
Mr Davis is liked on both sides of the Commons
As a former extreme sports enthusiast who enjoyed cartwheeling out of aircraft into parachute jumps, David Davis will understand the risks of running for Tory leader.

He is the least known of any of the candidates, likely or confirmed, and will remain the dark horse of the contest.

A former Foreign Office minister, Mr Davis has come to prominence in recent years through his work as head of the influential Commons public accounts committee (PAC).

As chairman, Mr Davis has presided over numerous inquiries into government spending and succeeded in being a thorn in Labour's side during the last parliament.

The Davis CV
Elected MP for Boothferry 1987
PPS to Francis Maude 1989-90
Government whip 1990-93
Junior minister for public service 1993-94
Minister for Europe 1994-97
Elected MP for the new seat of Haltemprice and Howden May 1997
Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee 1997 - present
His work has also had the unusual effect in that it has boosted his reputation and stature on both sides of the Commons.

It has also served to keep the MP out of the quagmire of Conservative front bench politics, which means that in comparison to some of the other candidates in the leadership race, he has a relatively clean slate.

He also has the benefit of being able to distance himself from many of the policies adopted by the party under William Hague and propose a fresh start.

And while others now stand accused of spending recent years "backbiting" William Hague or members of the shadow cabinet, Mr Davis can point to a legacy of hard-hitting PAC reports.

It is a record that could prove particularly palatable to the parliamentary party.

Low profile

However, it is a record that has resulted in a relatively low public profile and a limited public awareness of him, which could reduce his appeal within the party.

Nevertheless, the chairmanship of the PAC is generally regarded as a strong stepping stone towards leadership of the opposition party.

The committee has been working hard since the 1997 election and has produced a flurry of reports.

Many of these have been published in the normally politically dormant summer months, which has meant newspapers and broadcasters gave PAC inquiry findings more coverage than perhaps they would have received at any other point of the year.

Nevertheless the PAC, under Mr Davis's leadership have secured many worthy headlines, not least its success in securing access for the National Audit Office to scrutinise the accounts of the Royal household and Camelot, the national lottery operator.

It exposed the theft of taxpayers' money by a British embassy employee, highlighted the cost of Labour plans to eliminate the poverty trap, criticised decisions made by the Child Support Agency and warned that taxpayers would have to pay to clean up the British nuclear industry.

Ministerial career

Elected in 1987, Mr Davis was quick to scale the ministerial ladder - although he never made it into John Major's cabinet.

He was a whip from 1990 to 1993 when he was made junior minister for public service. In 1994, he was appointed minister for Europe at the Foreign Office, a post he held until the election.

An Eurosceptic on the right of the party, Mr Davis was a calculated choice for the post of Europe minister with the responsibility of selling the European Union to his fellow Tory MPs and fighting Britain's case in Brussels.

With strong multi-ethnic origins, Mr Davis has spoken out in the past against "the extremes of xenophobia".

The adopted son of a Polish Jewish printworkers, his grandfather was a committed communist.

His family lines link him to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and Mr Davis has been strongly against Labour's devolution policies.

Married with three children, he also a reputation for enjoying extreme sports.

As a young man, he climbed mountains, flew light aircraft and is said to have enjoyed parachuting out of planes doing cartwheels.

These days he confines himself to long-distance walking.

A strong supporter of John Major, Mr Davis backed former Home Secretary Michael Howard in the first round of the 1997 Conservative leadership race.

Four years later, Mr Davis is in the race himself. To some he is the ideal leader.

Others believe he is merely placing a marker and trying to position himself for a better shot at the prize when the vacancy arises again and his profile is higher.

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